Alonzo King’s 2017 Spring Adventure

16 May

Alonzo King’s 2017 Spring Adventure

Ten dancers were responsible for realizing Alonzo King’s latest adventure, closing the ensemble’s spring season at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theatre in a 5 p.m. performance Sunday afternoon May 14.  King is noted for seeking new inspirations and collaborators throughout the life of his ensemble and this time his focus was the inspiration which words can provide.  The non-intermission piece was titled Figures of Speech.

And not just any words, but the lexicon of twelve languages either moribund or held by special groups such as the Basques and the Sephardic Jews who still use Ladino in their lives.  Six of them belong to the North American Indians; three from the mid-West plains, Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa, and Mountain Maidu, Nisenan and Ohlone from two areas of the California Sierras and the mid-California coast. Hawaii is represented, Hokkaido, the Northern Territory and Tierra del Fuego.  These brief utterances come from the resources of Bob Holman’s recording collection.

Also credited in the program are David Finn, lighting and video designer; David Murakami, video designer; Colleen Quen, listed for salwar design; Alexander MacSween, composer and Phillip Perkins both composer and audio design.

The 50 minutes presented were marked by twenty-nine separate passages, commenced by Yujin Kim in gauzy off-white with black tracery [presumably language] followed by the full company, the women in short costumes, mixed tones of brown, another with fringe-like yellow and green layers, yet another rust and brown. The men wore trousers, tights, one a skirt, all bare-chested. Behind them at various times were horizontal bands of lights which appeared to be replicas of the languages, or tv-like squares and various lighting effects from the flies, particularly noticeable in the two Theft of Fire passages.

My guess is that the passages represented, spoken, chanted or sung represented rituals important to the given language groups, and, clearly, the most likely to survive.  I felt that King’s choreography with its penchant for struggling, stretching by arms and legs and the sometimes tortured nature of a pas de deux emphasized, if not illuminated the languages. Indeed, the program indicated  one prayer song from the Kiowa, A Comanche Hymn, and Aia la ‘o Pele from the Hawaiian. A tad more explanation might have helped.

As usual, I was swept away by the quality and beauty of the dancers, and just how King has helped them to become his eloquent instruments. It’s not hard to see how their physical eloquence has forged such a following both here and in Europe. Rita Felciano’s review for Danceviewtimes, referring to Ingmar Bergman’s Dance of Death in The Seventh Seal, was an apt summation for the near unrelenting choreographic contest framing the winnowing of these tribal communications.

For all the starkness of theme, the warmth of the almost capacity audience was matched by Alonzo King when he presented retiring Ballet Master Arturo Fernandez with a bouquet and proceeded to scatter rose petals on him and the stalwart dancers.

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